WESTERN Australia's live sheep export industry wants to know exactly what the real concerns are with how the trade is operating.
Last week Nationals Party leader David Littleproud visited Parliament House and met with supply chain representatives affected by Federal Labor's proposal to phase out live export.
Mr Littleproud said Australia's live export industry moved from just measuring success based on mortality to using animal welfare measures, backed by science.
"We have lifted the bar here in Australia," Mr Littleproud said.
The Livestock Collective (TLC) managing director Holly Ludeman said the live export industry had come a long way since 2019, when Labor instituted the phase-out policy.
Ms Ludeman stressed the importance of the trade to WA and said continuous changes had been made to improve animal welfare outcomes.
She said the industry could now record how livestock were coping in their environment and the TLC had shared this through such measures as its virtual vessel tour.
Ms Ludeman said the collective had invited new Federal Agricultural Minister Murray Watt to visit live export facilities and see the supply chain first-hand.
"We need to understand the specific concerns given the significant changes industry has made," Ms Ludeman said.
"The voyage that left in late May has finished discharge with not only exceptionally low mortality rates, but excellent animal welfare outcomes.
"This demonstrates the industry has improved and continues to do everything asked of it.
"We are confident we can show Mr Watt we are in a very different place and the (phase out) policy is not necessary and should be reviewed."
A document released by LiveCorp last month, reported the average annual mortality of sheep on live export ships was 0.71 per cent between 2013 and 2017.
This figure dropped dramatically by 67 per cent - to 0.24 per cent - in the years 2019-2021.
"While some individual voyages have had high mortalities in the past, there has not been a reportable event since 2017," the report said.
"Despite the limit being dropped from two per cent of sheep on board to one per cent. The prohibition on sheep shipments to the Middle East during part of the year - introduced in 2018 - has influenced the figures.
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"However, the decline is evident across every month and demonstrates other changes to industry practices and regulations have also had a significant impact on animal welfare."
What changes has Australia's live export industry made in the past three years?
The LiveCorp document outlined the industry initiatives, regulatory reviews and research, which had contributed to continual improvements in animal welfare outcomes.
Regulatory changes have included:
Industry improvements and modifications have also been made along the live sheep export supply chain from the type of sheep purchased, to the way animals were off-loaded overseas and management practices.
The LiveCorp document said this was due to a combination of factors including the industry's maturity, greater knowledge from research and experience and the clear message from the community that animal welfare was important.
Live export industry research has also been funded by levies paid by farmers and livestock exporters with about 70 per cent of the budget spent on animal welfare-related activities.
Ms Ludeman said animal welfare was at the forefront of the live export industry's thinking.
She said increased space had been by far the biggest game changer and had the biggest impact on welfare outcomes.
Instead of phasing out the trade, Ms Ludeman said there was potential for it to grow from exporting 600,000-head to one million head.
"It is a different industry compared to what it was and we need a different discussion," she said.
"Growing a trade and maintaining our input into the global animal welfare discussions is imperative.
" A sustainable sheep flock in WA will come from having both processing and live export, they complement each other."
Ms Ludeman added that she - and others in the industry - looked forward to having those discussions with Mr Watt.
She said he sounded like a collaborative person who "wanted to get his boots on the ground".
"Mr Watt has said he wants to understand and engage with people and you can't ask more from a politician than that," she said.
"Going around in circles before we have had discussions is unfair on everyone."
Rural export and trading WA general manager Murray Frangs also met with Mr Littleproud last week.
Mr Frangs said it was good to see continued support from somebody who had been in the agricultural minister's role for some years and had a realistic understanding of the industry.
"Mr Littleproud understands what has been developed in hand with the Department of Agriculture, Water, Environment over some years," Mr Frangs said.
"This has enabled the industry to operate with such exceptional results and industry is appreciative of his continued support.
"We also welcome the opportunity to work with Mr Watt to showcase the industry, uphold the same attention to welfare and maintain world-leading programs through Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock and the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Systems."
Eastville Park and Quailerup West Merino stud breeder Grantly Mullan said the live export trade was highly important not only for WA, but the whole of Australia.
Mr Mullan runs 3500 stud and 400 commercial ewes and sells into abattoirs and the live export trade.
He said live export gave him flexibility - when he needed it.
Mr Mullan has attended one of TLC's vessel tours out of Fremantle and said the improvements which industry has made to animal welfare, should be commended.
"We should be supporting and praising the industry, as a world leader in animal welfare standards," Mr Mullan said.
"It has done an unbelievable job to improve the comfort of sheep while they are onboard a ship for export.
"I have no issues with the trade - the conditions and comfort sheep have while on the vessel is truly amazing."
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